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Climate Science Coalition welcomes trans-Tasman plans

Monday 14 February

Climate Science Coalition welcomes trans-Tasman plans for joint adaptation response to natural disasters

The announcement by their Ministers of Defence that Australia and New Zealand are setting up a new crisis centre to manage joint responses to natural disasters, with the multi-role supply ship HMNZS Canterbury at the pivotal centre of the response force, has been welcomed by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. On the eve of the arrival in New Zealand of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a spokesman for the Coalition, Professor Robert Carter, of Townsville, Australia said “this is precisely the sort of imaginative and cost-effective planning that is needed to deal with natural disasters in the Australasian area.

“Natural disasters are in the news in both Australia and New Zealand. Leaving aside the 4 September Christchurch earthquake as being in a different category, the recent summer outburst of cyclones, storms and floods in both countries is well understood by scientists to be linked to the La Nina part of the Pacific Ocean’s El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climatic cycle.

“Despite strident claims by global warming pressure groups, no scientific evidence exists that human carbon dioxide emissions have anything to do with our current climatic woes. Rather, the weather events that are causing us so much present grief represent instabilities that are related to both short term (ENSO) and longer term (Pacific Decadal Oscillation – PDO) climatic oscillations. That such events would occur is not only predictable, but in the Australian case was actually predicted in February 2009 by Dr. Stewart Franks from Newcastle University, who wrote then:

‘The historical record of climate variability suggests that we should expect a return to a 20-40 year period where La Nina dominates the climate of at least eastern Australia once more. The observation that many regions of Australia routinely experience multi-decadal variability of flood and drought, suggest that we should expect a return to major widespread flooding on a regular inter-annual basis, and for entirely natural reasons’”.

Professor Carter said that in the light of subsequent events, it is astonishing that Dr Franks’ caution, including earlier comments that he made in widely read international peer-reviewed research journals, was ignored by Australian planning authorities and by their IPCC-linked advisory scientists.

“The problem is one of dealing better with natural climatic vagary, and the fashionable idea that reducing human carbon dioxide emissions will reduce either the number or magnitude of climatic disasters in the future is both silly and irresponsible; and especially so, given the huge cost and great disadvantages to poorer people and countries that are associated with such policies.

“That human carbon dioxide emissions are to blame for recent climatic disasters is completely without scientific foundation. As noted in a 10 February article in the Wall Street Journal: ‘researchers have yet to find evidence of more-extreme weather patterns over the period since 1871, contrary to what the models predict’, and ‘it's possible that even if we spend trillions of dollars, and forgo trillions more in future economic growth, to cut carbon emissions to pre-industrial levels, the climate will continue to change—as it always has.’

“In similar fashion, the way we should respond to climatic hazard is by preparation for, and adaptation to, all dangerous climatic events as and when they develop. New Zealand’s world-best-practice GeoNet hazard system has most recently proved its worth in assisting public understanding and management of the Christchurch earthquake, “ said Professor Carter. “The time has come for GeoNet to add to its list of responsibilities the provision of independent advice on long-term climate hazard. And inAustralia? For politicians to give serious consideration to setting up a similar national hazard management system.”

Dr Carter said that as an editorial The Australian noted on January 17th: “There is nothing people can do to stop rains, generated by the La Nina weather pattern on the east coast [of Australia], which are part of a natural cycle we are only beginning to understand. But nature need not dictate the way we respond.”


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